1917: Faberge eggs shattered. Dead butterflies
flew out, darkened the sky, petaled
eyes of imperial statues.
The French glaze that had permeated the Russian world,
eroded, scoured all that came before. A pair of
revolutions dismantled Tsarist autocracy,
leading to the rise of the Soviet Union. Born in 1900,
Nabokov entered young adulthood when revolutions
ripped the Tsars into bronze shards.
Crushed jewels dusted pores. Red
posters propelled propaganda. Mechanical grimaces
ground poems. Deus ex machina: a new idol—Stalin.
Gallic pages crumbled & blew away as the Soviet Union
bled. Nabokov first called forth, Speak, Mnemosyne.
Goddess of memory, mother of Zeus,
daughter of Heaven & Earth.
The memoir sprouted into Speak, Memory,
written in English, translated into Russian’s
glistering words. Dark ash
fell like black snow.
Dean Kostos is a poet, translator, anthologist, and memoirist. He is the author of eight books. His collection, This Is Not a Skyscraper, won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award, selected by Mark Doty. He was the recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation Cultural Innovation grant. His memoir, The Boy Who Listened to Paintings, will be released this fall.